The Best of the 2016 World Maker Faire

Event was packed with 3-D printing projects and opportunities for kids to learn how to build and fly drones

14 October 2016

More than 1 million people participated this year in Maker Faires around the world. Children and grown-ups alike attend to learn how to build gadgets and showcase their DIY projects, as well as discover what’s new in the fields of science and engineering. The World Maker Faire, held on 1 and 2 October at the New York Hall of Science, in New York City, was no different. Nearly 100 IEEE volunteers attended along with several staff members. IEEE also had a booth, which featured hands-on activities and demonstrations.

With some 950 projects to see, I became dizzy trying to narrow down the best to spotlight. So I asked IEEE volunteers and staff who attended to help me.

  • THE IEEE BOOTH

    IEEE has had a presence at the New York Maker Faire for five years, cosponsored by Region 1, IEEE-USA, and the IEEE Educational Activities Board. This year’s booth included an LED Torch workshop sponsored by the Institution of Engineering and Technology. IET provided more than 1,500 LED kits for participants to build and customize with the assistance of volunteers from both organizations.

    There was a demonstration of a robot solving a Rubik’s cube puzzle, a project developed by IEEE Member Soon Wan and his family. And for the second year in a row, there was a Learn to Solder booth.

    By being present at this event, IEEE can continue to engage students as well as educators on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) through resources such as TryEngineering.org and TryComputing.org, which offer games, career information, and a list of universities offering programs in the fields.

    —IEEE Life Senior Member Charles Rubenstein is chair of the IEEE-USA Conferences Committee, chair of the Region 1 Student Activities Committee, and vice chair of the IEEE New York Section. He initiated IEEE’s presence at Maker Faire along with Chris McManes, public relations manager for IEEE-USA.

  • 3-D PRINTING BOOTHS

    Next door to the IEEE booth was a 3-D printing station where participants could watch life-size projects being created. One project was a printed violin that people played. The booth also printed large cartoon characters—providing photo opportunities for families at the event.

    Another 3-D printing project, from We the Builders, assigns makers one piece of a project to print. The company then assembles all the pieces into a sculpture to create, for example, a bust of Benjamin Franklin. We the Builders calls the process crowdsourced sculptures. The current project is Rosie the Riveter; those interested in contributing can go to the We the Builders website, where they’ll be assigned a 3-D file to print.

    —Mirelle White, business development product manager for IEEE Educational Activities

  • MAKER SPACES

    Another booth showcased several workspaces in the New York area that let anyone use 3-D printers and supplies to make their own projects. One is Maker Depot, a 558-square-meter facility in Totowa, N.J., that provides training on how to use its equipment. Maker Depot also holds events for makers to meet and share their work. Triple Cities Makerspace, a 24-hour work space in Binghamton, N.Y., also offers courses and events.

    —Chris Wright, membership marketing and sales specialist for IEEE Member and Geographic Activities

  • THE GREEN BRONX MACHINE

    What started out as an after-school program in the South Bronx developed by teacher Stephen Ritz is now a way to provide free vegetables to his school’s 450 students as well as local residents who cannot afford to buy fresh produce. The Green Bronx Machine has grown more than 18,000 kilograms of crops inside an underutilized school library, transforming it into a year-round farm powered by LEDs. Students can monitor the crops’ growth on a mobile app. Ritz has since expanded the program to schools and community centers across the United States.

    He spoke about how he engages students to participate in the project, and said it not only inspires them to eat healthier but also to be more engaged in their science courses. In his school, where about 17 percent of students typically graduate, Ritz says each of the students who participated in his program graduated.

    —Mark A. Vasquez, senior manager of community engagement and innovation for IEEE Meetings, Conferences, and Events

  • FROM MAKER TO MARKETPLACE

    At a time when software is king, the Maker to Marketplace tent provided a forum for entrepreneurs to showcase their hardware products. It allowed participants to play around with the gadgets, and the makers explained how they built them. The open-source construction platform Makeblock, for example, provides kits for building robots, helping kids learn electronics and programming skills.

    There was a lot to see inside the tent in terms of design, manufacturing, and innovation. Look for several Maker to Marketplace products in this year’s IEEE Spectrum Holiday Gift Guide.

    Stephen Cass, senior editor of IEEE Spectrum

  • DRONE AND CAR RACING

    Not only could attendees learn how to build their own drones at Maker Faire, they also could learn how to fly them. The Aerial Sports League, which holds drone competitions, was there to train kids to fly an aerial vehicle using a remote control. It also held a competition, allowing some of the best drone pilots in the world to show off their skills by flying their aircraft through a challenging obstacle course.

    In another event, organized by Power Racing Series, participants built their own child-sized electric vehicles and raced them on a track. The activity taught automotive engineering skills, and the makers got to customize their cars with LEDs or glitter.

    —Adrienne Hahn, membership marketing and sales specialist for IEEE Member and Geographic Activities

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